Karate uniforms come in different styles, cuts and weights. If you are a parent or a Karate practitioner yourself this checklist will help you make the right choice for a Karate gi.
1-Which type of Karate gi should you buy ?
There are two types of Karate uniforms:
Kumite gi : Used for Kumite (sparrings) and training. The kumite gi tends to be very flexible and does not have any snap in it.
Kata gi : Used for Kata (choreographed form). It is usually heavier than the kumite gi. And since it is used for Kata and demonstrations before a crowd, the kata gi tends to be more luxurious and more elegant than kumite gi.
Kata gi has generally a short cut in sleeves and pant cuffs. In opposition, Kumite gi has a longer cut.
2-What types of Karate gi in a tournament ?
Kumite uniforms used for international tournaments have to be approved by the (WKF) World Karate federation, the governing body of sport Karate.
Unless you are an international competitor, don’t worry about this, just buy any Karate gi which suits your training needs.
3- Are Karate uniforms all the same weight ?
There are 3 weight categories for a karate gi :
-Lightweight: 5oz to 7oz (140 to 200g) usually used by novices and kids.
-Middleweight: 9oz to 13oz (255 to 368g) This is the weight most students regardless of their ranks use in their day to day training and their Kumite.
-Heavyweight: 13oz to 17oz (368 to 481g) This weight is almost exclusively worn in demonstrations before crowds by higher ranked masters and instructors. Since this karate gi is heavy it does not have practical purposes, and it is not used in competitions.
Always take into consideration the kind of climate you are training at. If you are training in a warm climate then go for a lightweight, if you are working out in a cooler climate then go for a heavier weight.
One of the most important things in a Karate gi is that you have to be feeling comfortable while wearing it. You will be punching and kicking, so you need to feel comfortable while doing so. You don’t want to hear a tear in your pants while trying to do a split on the floor!
Good Karate gi pants will never make you adjust them before kicking high, they should be naturally flexible, allowing every kind of stance and kick.
Make sure that the pants have solid material in the groin area to endure the high kicks and splits. Also, note that the groin area must have enough space for the groin protector.
Pant cuffs should never be dangling on the floor risking you to trip and fall. Always make them above the ankle by 7 to 10 cm .
While buying the belt always make sure it is long enough to go twice around your waist, but not too long dangling between the legs and handicapping your moves. I have seen many novices with long belts being eye poked by their own belts while kicking!
The Jacket must be long enough to hang below the waist even after the belt is tied. 10 to 17 cm (3 – 7 Inches) under the waist should be the norm.
Sleeve cuffs must not pass the wrist (It should be ideally cut even before the wrist)
10-How to pick the right size for your Karate gi?
Sizes and measurements of the different manufacturers are not identical.
While picking the size, always go for the measurements in centimeters e.g.180 cm ,some practitioners get mistaken by thinking the measurements appearing on the manufacturer’s website are the combination of the jacket and the pants, e.g. 180 cm = Jacket + pants which is wrong. 180 cm means the height of the person, so if your height is 180 cm then this karate gi is for you.
11- Karate gi and shrinkage
Material shrinks : Unless you are getting top notch brands, you should always go for a size bigger and fold the sleeves and pants up, after a few washes it will be the right size.
Cotton uniforms shrink approximately 5 – 9% especially in the early washes. Polyester and cotton mixes shrink less than pure cotton.
Kids grow fast, that is why a poly-cotton karate gi is more recommended for them, since the shrinkage is kept to a minimum.
Top notch pure cotton gi’s come pre-shrunk to keep the shrinkage at a minimum. This option is not available for novices’ uniforms.
12- How to wash your Karate uniform
When you are washing your karate gi always put the washing machine on the coldest setting. Avoid hot settings because it will damage the cotton fabric of your Karate gi. Never wash above 25 degrees.
Avoid using bleach, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda., because it will affect the longevity of your karate gi, just use simple laundry detergent.
13-Never iron your Karate uniform, this would shrink it in no time.
14-What about belts, do they shrink too?
Belts shrink too, so you should not be washing it as often as a a karate gi.
15-Best types of pants for kids?
Karate uniforms for kids have to have elastic waist pants with additional drawstrings. The traditional Karate gi has only drawstrings, but kids tend to find it complicated, they rather prefer to make elastic waist pants with a drawstring so they can just tie it and go on with their class without having to adjust it everytime it falls
16-Top brands ?
If you take a look at the website of the World Karate Federation (WKF) you will find the top approved brands for Karate uniforms which are allowed to be worn in International competition. But most of these brands are usually overpriced (around 180 USD to 250 USD) because they detain the approval of the WKF. Instead, what I recommend for beginners is to buy a sustainable uniform and get the best value for money.